It was interesting to me as I sat in the empty theater waiting for audience for THE STAR SPANGLED GIRL to finish their meals upstairs and take their seats that more than one group exclaimed, “Oh, this is a Neil Simon play!”
They were excited at this discovery but it seemed that they weren’t nearly as interested in the play as the Commonwealth experience. There’s dinner and a show twice a summer and it seemed like these folks were veterans, regular patrons. They knew what they were getting even if not aware of the specifics of the show. Commonwealth’s reputation preceded itself.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to attend this play. The other is the phenomenal cast. Erin Ward, one of our region’s most promising actresses, just completed her internship at the Playhouse in the Park. She is teamed with two CCM Acting majors, Josh Reiter and Nicholas Heffelfinger. This trio of performers were simply too good to pass up.
THE STAR SPANGLED GIRL is the story of two young bachelors, with rebellious, political agendas. Andy (Heffelfinger) is the publisher and businessman. Norman (Reiter) is the prolific writer of all the articles. Things aren’t great when new neighbor Sophie (Ward) moves in but her presence makes things significantly more complicated.
This is not Simon’s best work, but it’s still funny enough. And these three actors have more than enough skill and talent to keep things moving, while entertaining the audience. The jokes are sometimes rapid-fire; I wondered if the crowd caught them all. But I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
Reiter is absolutely delightful as Norman, with exuberance and manic energy of an awkward man in love. Heffelfinger has the voice and presence of a strong leading man but enough quirk to make him right for a Simon play. And Ward brings charm, strength, and a hint of seductive power to her role, as well.
The set is gorgeous, the costumes well-done, and the lighting and sound design work well to set time and place. The era of the late 60’s is especially rich in cultural texture and the creative team does a wonderful job with setting and theme. I did wonder, though, if they had cordless razors and clip-on desk lamps in the era; maybe so.
Director Nathan Gabriel has staged this piece as an upbeat, frenetic comedy and has cast the right actors to do so. It is a lovely night out at the theatre. And next time I hope to be there in time for dinner!
THE STAR SPANGLED GIRL runs through June 26th at Northern Kentucky University. Click here for more information.